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2. Februar 2005  
Hardly winter

Winter in OsloThe average temperature in Oslo was nearly six degrees Celsius (10.8 F) higher than normal in January and the next warmest January since measurements began.

Only a few days this winter have provided Norwegians in the capital district with their traditional snowy pleasures. The new year has begun with near-record temperatures.

Only one January has had a higher average temperature than 2005 since the Meteorological Institute began taking records in 1938, and this year was headed for a record before a sudden cold snap set in.

In 1989 the average temperature reached +2.3C (36F). The norm is -4.3C (24F).

"Using the word "extreme" is completely justified for this year's January in Oslo. A deviation from the norm of 5.9C is an extreme amount," said Hans Olav Hygen, climate researcher at the Institute.

"If one examines the data in a perspective of about 70 years the trend is completely clear. It is getting warmer," Hygen said.

Via Aftenposten News in English.

22. Desember 2004  
Smokers dodge restaurant bills

Smoking outside restaurantsNorway's tough new anti-smoking law has left restaurants with new losses: Smokers who say they're just stepping outside for a cigarette often don't return to pay for their food and drink.

Restaurant owners already have complained that their revenues are down after a smoking ban was imposed in all public places last summer.

Now, newspaper Dagsavisen reports that a nationwide trade association is seeing more cases of customers running off from their bills.

Clodion Art Café in Oslo, for example, averaged one bill-dodging a week before the new smoking law took effect. Now the café's up to three a week, sometimes more, says manager Vibeke Slatheim.

The problem is that it's become common for bar, café and restaurant guests to leave their tables and go outside for a cigarette, since they can't smoke inside. Officials thought the trend would taper off when the winter cold set in, but it hasn't.

The busy holiday party season has resulted in scores of people standing out on sidewalks and in the streets, puffing away, even in sub-zero temperatures.

Some simply don't bother to return to their table and pay the check. "People seem to lower the threshold for skipping out on paying, when they're already standing out in the street with their coat on," said Baard Fiksdal of the trade association (Reiselivsbedriftenes Landsforening, RBL).

Fiksdal said it's also become more difficult for restaurant personnel to keep an eye on their customers after the smoking ban took effect.

Via Aftenposten News in English.

1. Desember 2004  
Two died in shipwreck

MalakhiThe Russian trawler Malakhi shipwrecked Tuesday night between Bjrnya and Svalbard. The ship had a crew of 20, 18 were rescued and two persons died.

Two persons have been found deceased, while 18 people of the staff are alive and were rescued, stated Lisbeth Kristine Hansen at Hovedredningssentralen i Nord-Norge (main rescue central northern Norway), TV 2 Nettavisen at 8.17 a.m. Wednesday.

A rescue chopper, rescue vessel, and several other ships participated in the rescue operations 50 nautical miles southwest of Bjrnya. It was storming and snowing heavy in the area at the time.

Empty lifeboat

It was reported that the crew of 20 were in the lifeboat, but it was empty when the rescue chopper arrived on the scene. Most of the crew as picked up from the water.

Several of the crewmembers were picked up by a Russian vessel which was close to the shipwreck. The remaining men were picked up by a Sea King rescue chopper.

Heavy list

The Russian trawler Malakhit reported a heavy list at 2:25 a.m., and the situation became worse during the night. At 5:05 a.m. Wednesday, it was reported that the crew of 20 had left the ship.

A Superpuma rescue chopper from Svalbard was sent out to the ship, in addition to the coast guard ship Marlene stervoll.

At 7:30 a.m., the rescue station stated that rescue personnel were working to locate survivors.

A Sea King chopper and several boats were also directed to the area to assist in the rescue work.

Via Nettavisen News in English.

15. November 2004  
Environmental activists due in court

Barents Sea actionEleven environmental activists have been ordered into court after they refused to pay fines for a protest action over the weekend. The activists tried to disrupt the transport of a drilling rig that's bound for controversial exploration operations in the Barents Sea.

The activists braved terrible weather in Western Norway to protest the transport of a drilling rig bound for the Barents Sea.

Frederic Hauge, leader of the environmental group Bellona, and 10 others were hit with fines of NOK 5,000 each on Sunday. All were arrested by the coast guard and police after they surrounded the drilling rig Eirik Raude as it was being towed from len in Rogaland, western Norway.

The protesters are adamantly opposed to oil drilling in the Barents Sea and wanted to hinder the drilling rig from heading for the area, before their organizations' complaint about its emissions are considered by state pollution authorities.

The activists, which also included the leader of environmental group Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth), claimed their protest action was tantamount to civil disobedience, which they will defend on moral grounds.

"The issue of oil production in the Barents Sea is so important that we're willing to break the law when we can't move forward through democratic means," said Ane Hansdatter Kismul of Natur og Ungdom.

Via Aftenposten News in English.

28. September 2004  
Green light for seal-hunting tourists

sel.jpgThree years ago Minister of Fisheries Svein Ludvigsen, dreamed up the controversial proposal to let tourists come to Norway to shoot seals. The idea is now nearing the end of its political treatment and the program can start when the ordinary hunting season next begins early next year, newspaper Dagsavisen reports.

Although seals are not the most mobile target, rough seas can make aiming from a boat difficult.

Norway's fishery authorities consider coastal seals a problem for the fish population and the fishing industry and Norwegian hunters do not bag their quotas - so the idea of seal-hunting tourism was born.

When the Norwegian hunting season begins tourists can participate as long as the chase is part of an organized package. It is not yet clear if visitors must Norwegian shooting tests to get permission to hunt.

Norway's tourist industry fears that this controversial offering can give the country negative publicity. Hunt organizers are convinced that there is great interest abroad for seal-hunting but more conventional tourism promoters are reluctant to give the activity too much publicity.

Environmental groups are highly skeptical. Rasmus Hansson of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) said that the hunting quotas were too high and reflected an overvaluation of fish populations.

"Importing tourists to solve an alleged problem seems to be a parody," Hansson told the newspaper.

Truls Gulowsen, campaign leader at Greenpeace, said the idea was an embarrassment.

"Most of the tourists that come to Norway are interested in unspoiled nature. Many will find this loathsome. This is about attitudes and how we market this country. This hunt can be mistaken for target practice," Gulowsen said.

Via Aftenposten News in English.

21. April 2004  
Wolves 'disappearing' every year

ulv.jpgWildlife experts claim that as many as 25 wolves are disappearing every year and the fledgling wolf population in Norway has stagnated. They suspect illegal hunting is to blame.

Wolves like this one spotted near Elverum in 2002 spread fear among sheep ranchers and local residents.

Researchers tracking efforts to bring back the wolf from near-extinction in Norway estimate that less than 40 wolf pups born in southern Sweden and Norway every year survive past a half-year. But even that modest growth in the wolf population doesn't seem to last.

A majority of the young wolves seem to mysteriously disappear. From an estimated net growth of 25 wolves a year in the 1990s, it's now stagnated.

"A wolf population with access to enough food doesn't simply come to a halt without a reason," researcher Petter Wabakken at the College of Hedmark told newspaper Aftenposten. "We're left with illegal hunting as the most important reason for the stagnation."

Both of Norway's national TV stations are highlighting the issue this week. Commercial station TV2 reported that a secret network of anti-wolf activists has shot as many as 120 wolves in the border area between Sweden and Norway over the past 20 years.

On Tuesday, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) was also set to air a documentary about alleged illegal wolf hunts.

"We know that illegal hunts have existed as far back as 1965," says Wabakken. "Their frequency has increased, and appears to have changed the wolves' development."

Via Aftenposten News in English.

23. Februar 2004  
Norwegian winter too tough for British elite troops

SoldaterMore than 100 British elite troops have been sent home from winter exercises in Northern Norway.

Eighty of them were suffering from severe frostbites, while the rest had broken bones.

According to Mail on Sunday, the British Defence Department will have to check out if the British sleeping bags are warm enough to face a Norwegian winter.

However, lieutenant-colonel Lars Sundnes, Chief of Allied Training Centre North, finds no fault with the British equipment. But he believes that facing the winter in Northern Norway has been a tough experience, particularly for the most inexperienced soldiers.

The Allied Training Centre has been host for the 2300 British soldiers who are participating in the three-week-long exercise near Harstad.

Via The Norway Post.

26. Januar 2004  
Why, why?

Winter Wonderland!Another half-meter of snow on the way

Those tired of shoveling snow had better just get used to it. State meteorologists predicted lots more snow later in the week, maybe up to a half-meter.

Oslo residents were among those told to brace for more heavy snow.

Parking places on city streets in Oslo are already at an even greater premium than normal, because of the piles of earlier snow that still haven't been cleared away. City crews made some progress over the weekend in removing snow in some areas, but not enough.

Now forecasters are calling for more snow to start falling by mid-week, with temperatures due to stay well below the freezing point for a change.

Since New Year, unstable weather patterns all over the country have led to wide variations in temperature. Unseasonably warm weather suddenly gave way to Arctic chills and then back to milder temperatures.

Thermometers were due to settle around -8 to -10C (14-18 F) Thursday and Friday.

Via Aftenposten News in English.

15. Desember 2003  
Keiko secretly buried on shore


Celebrity whale Keiko was laid to rest after darkness fell on Sunday, in a grave on land near the Norwegian bay where he spent the last months of his life. The burial took place during the night to keep it as private an affair as possible.

Now Keiko will forever be a part of the scenic bay in northwestern Norway where he spent his last year.

Dead whales are usually towed out to open sea, and some even had feared Keiko would be slaughtered. But the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation, which had backed unsuccessful efforts to return Keiko to the wild, wanted Keiko buried on land.

Norwegian authorities went along with the request. "We evaluated several alternatives, but agreed that this was the best thing to do, given the circumstances," said Olav Lekve of the public agency regulating fishing in Norway (Fiskeridirektoratet).

"Normal practice is to sink dead sea mammals in open sea, but this is a special situation," Lekve said.

He added that local authorities in Halsa Township, who govern the area around Keiko's recent home in Taknes Bay, were consulted and agreed as well.

The township experienced a surge in tourism after Keiko surfaced in a nearby fjord last year, and it's speculated that a monument will be erected in the area to honor Keiko's unusual life.

"We're very glad that the directorate listened to our wishes," said Frank Haavik, one of Keiko's minders.

Keiko was first captured off Iceland as a youngster and spent the next 20 years in captivity, performing in various aquatic parks in Mexico and the US. He literally sprang to fame in the movie "Free Willy," and thousands of people donated money towards efforts to return him to the wild.

Keiko never took to the idea, however. He did manage to swim to Norway on his own after he was released last summer, but he found his way to a local fjord and continued to prefer human companionship, delighting residents with his antics.

He suddenly fell ill late last week and died Friday evening of suspected pneumonia. The whale was believed to be 26 years old.

Via Aftenposten News in English

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